Last week, I joined a style challenge on Instagram on weekdays. There were prompts to follow like with most photo challenges except this involved styling yourself a certain way. It wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary – knitwear, animal prints, favourite colours – you get the gist. I’d been feeling quite flat and emotional the week before and in our fourth month of working from home, was feeling unmotivated from not having seen my team in person. So I jumped on this bandwagon for a bit of fun.
And it was worth it. Every night before going to bed, I’d have a look at the prompt for the next day and think about what I could wear. It was something else to look forward to in addition to the gym. After the gym, I’d wear my outfit and take a photo, size it the way I wanted to and post it on my grid. During the day, I’d scroll and see others’ outfits, comment on them and also enjoy some of the comments on my own. But it wasn’t just about the vanity of publishing photos. It was being able to see my bright outfits on a grid. It was being able to see others’ bright outfits in this dark and gloomy world. It was smiling at the comments and connecting with others.
When we first began working from home, I wore jeans and my professional tops. After a month of struggling to switch off from work in a healthy way and working really long hours, I changed my tune. I started to dress as I would at work. I even wore the shoes and occasionally, lipstick. At that time, most people were talking about working from home in track pants and sweatshirts, making jokes about never needing to wear a bra. But that was something I struggled with.
For me, wearing my work clothes at home did a few things. Firstly, it put me in my work mindset. But also, more importantly, it helped me break up the day between work and life. Because after work, I had to actually change my clothes into my track pants and sweatshirt to allow my body and mind to know that it was time to switch off. I had the sensation of freedom at taking my bra off at the end of the day – something that has almost always signified ‘downtime’.
Getting dressed was one of the few things that got me through the months of lockdown and isolation. In my case, it was literal isolation for those months because I live alone and was working from home. But when I dressed up, I felt ready to take on the workday. I felt ready to face the world despite the loneliness and disconnection from people in my life. It also helped me form a routine of sorts at the time. Interestingly, dressing up also garnered comments from strangers when I’d go for a lunchtime walk thereby helping me connect with people outside. Like the time a couple of ladies commented on a red dress and matching red shoes that I was wearing. Or the time when a guy commented on my yellow skirt and shoes matching the yellow leaves from a tree around me. It led to smiles, laughs and conversations.
I am not a fashion guru. I will never be a style inspiration. I don’t follow trends. I don’t look for famous brand names. But I enjoy wearing clothes that make me feel good and work for me. I enjoy looking good for myself. I enjoy wearing something that lifts my spirits, even if just for a few hours a day. And goodness knows in these times, even the little things matter.